The underwhelming Tamil Nadu, lacking consistency and cutting edge, did not deserve to go through to the knock-out stages of the Ranji Trophy.
The side’s tactics and the selection of its eleven appeared bizarre on occasions. The different arms of the team did not move in cohesion.
The signs were ominous when Tamil Nadu crawled to 112 for two in 54 overs on day three after conceding the lead and needing to force the pace against Andhra in the season-opener.
The defensive mind-set became pronounced as the season progressed, in several decisive moments of the league phase.
Despite gaining the lead against Mumbai after an early stumble with B. Indrajith and V. Yo Mahesh notching up centuries, Tamil Nadu could not build on the momentum gained.
The side, inexplicably, conceded the lead to Odisha after notching up 530 for eight. The bowling unit stood exposed.
Over-dependence on left-arm spinner Rahil Shah — effective on turners and ordinary on other tracks — did not help the side’s cause.
His nine wickets in four games came at an average of 54.33.
As former India leg-spinner V.V. Kumar pointed out, the bowlers had to use their imagination on unresponsive pitches. When not bowling on seaming tracks or rank turners, the Tamil Nadu attack has struggled.
One bowler too many?
Yet, selecting more bowlers in the eleven is not the solution. Tamil Nadu picked as many as seven of them including three all-rounders against Madhya Pradesh. The logic-defying ploy failed in a must-win situation.
Now, all-rounders are meant to save places, lend the side balance. You have to make the most of their ability, not pick additional bowlers to make up for their presence.
This after skipper Abhinav Mukund, replying to a query about young off-spinning all-rounder Washington Sundar being under-bowled against Andhra, had said if five bowlers were in the eleven, one was bound to be used less.
The tactics seemed puzzling. The promising Washington, after a well-made 159 against Tripura as an opener, found himself surfacing in the middle-order when there was a vacancy in the top-order to be filled against MP.
There were some laudable individual performances though. B. Aparajith’s 417 runs came at a whopping average of 104.25 while his twin Indrajith looked secure at the crease. With two hundreds in pressure situations, comeback paceman Yo Mahesh’s batting was a revelation.
Washington, though not utilised fully, gave glimpses of his all-round ability. N. Jagadeesan had his moments with the willow but the lack of runs from Abhinav hurt the side.
Paceman K. Vignesh, with 24 scalps at 21.50, impressed with his control and movement. The side, however, missed its injured seamers Aswin Crist and T. Natarajan.
Tamil Nadu’s quest to regain Ranji Trophy it last won in 1988 continues.